Tomorrow is Mardi Gras, which is literally translated to “Fat Tuesday” in English. And Fat Tuesday it will be, with many people indulging in treats such as paczki, a Polish fried doughnut filled with fruit preserves or other sweet fillings. It is also the end of the Mardi Gras carnival in New Orleans. In general, tomorrow is a day for feasting and over indulgences before the Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday.
So what does your “Keeping it Real” dietitian think about all of this? Well… if we are keeping it real, I’ll admit I have participated in this tradition many, many times. I have had many paczki in my life. But when we get down to it, “Fat Tuesday” is a lot like “the day before you go on a diet”. Indulge in your favorite guilty pleasures before you have to give them up. Lent is a season of penance, abstinence, and fasting. So right before we start that, we indulge on Mardi Gras. And when we decide to go on a diet, a lot of us choose the day before to be our “Last Supper” – get in all of those forbidden treats before we get down to business!
The problem with that Last Supper mentality is that it usually gets us into trouble. When we tell ourselves that something is off limits, it seems like that’s the thing we want more than anything else. A better way to approach a diet or lifestyle change might be to ease your way into it, rather than push the limits the night before. Same goes for preparing for Lent – does it really make a lot of sense to be gluttonous and sinful beyond our norm just because in the coming season we will be fasting and abstaining?
So before you reach for those guilty pleasures… before you load up your shopping cart and your belly with paczki… think about what you’re doing to your body. Maybe this year instead of giving something up for Lent, think of what you can do to better yourself or your community. What can you do to take better care of your body rather than simply giving something up? Or if you do give something up, is it something that you should just try to eliminate completely, regardless of whether or not it is Lent?
Just some food for thought as we get ready for Lent and Easter in the coming months… don’t worry though. I’m definitely not going to judge if you have yourself some paczki tomorrow! After all… good nutrition is all about variety, balance and moderation, sweet treats included!